Sunday, May 30, 2010

Monday's Mourning Ministry - Hold My Heart ~Tenth Avenue North

Monday's Mourning Ministry

Hold My Heart

~Tenth Avenue North

Hold My Heart

Tenth Avenue North

How long must I pray, must I pray to You?

How long must I wait, must I wait for You?

How long 'til I see Your face, see You shining through?

I'm on my knees, begging You to notice me.

I'm on my knees, Father will you turn to me?

One tear in the driving rain,

One voice in a sea of pain

Could the maker of the stars

Hear the sound of my breakin' heart?

One light, that's all I am

Right now I can barely stand

If You're everything You say You are

Won't You come close and hold my heart

I've been so afraid, afraid to close my eyes

So much can slip away before I say goodbye.

But if there's no other way, I'm done asking why.

Cuz I'm on my knees, begging You to turn to me

I'm on my knees, Father will you run to me?

One tear in the driving rain,

One voice in a sea of pain

Could the maker of the stars

Hear the sound of my breakin' heart?

One light, that's all I am

Right now I can barely stand

If You're everything You say You are

Won't You come close and hold my heart.

So many questions without answers, Your promises remain

I can't sleep but I'll take my chances to hear You call my name

To hear You call my name

One tear in the driving rain,

One voice in a sea of pain

Could the maker of the stars

Hear the sound of my breakin' heart?

One light, that's all I am

Right now I can barely stand

If You're everything You say You are

Won't You come close and hold my heart.

Hold my heart, could you hold my heart?

Hold my heart.

Today's song, "Hold My Heart" is in appreciation to Danielle Helms who recommended the song through Twitter this week. Amazingly, I first met Danielle through Twitter, and she has become one of my very best friends through our grieving over our girls together. Danielle's Kristin and my Merry Katherine were killed only two weeks and two days apart in 2006. My heart is especially heavy for my friend as she grieves her "teen angel" Kristin this week on what would have been her 20th birthday. My heart and prayers are with you especially this week sweet Danielle, "Sister in The Bond Of The Endless Ache!"

In Honor of

Kristin Danielle Helms

6/5/1990 - 7/17/2006

Age 16

You may read more about Kristin at

Kristin Helms Internet Safety Foundation

Danielle did an amazing job on this news report, in honor of her 16-yr-old daughter and in hopes of saving some other precious children's lives. Despite her horrific grieving, Danielle shares with the world how her precious daughter's life was destroyed. It's horrifying and incredibly sad to know that even a child born and raised in such a loving Christian home can be susceptible to an internet predator pretending to care for her. Danielle wrote on her 5/31/10 Twitter site:

Kristin's Story~KNBC 4 Los Angeles~ "I Honor Your Beautiful Life By Speaking For You With Mine!"~

{{{♥Love and hugs to you, Danielle. Thank you for sharing your heart with us even amidst your devastating grief.♥}}}

Song: Hold My Heart by Tenth Avenue North
Story of Kristin Helms is on the Kristin Helms Internet Safety Foundation website
Kristin's news report:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday's Faith - Violent Death - Is Restorative Retelling Really Possible?

Friday's Faith

Violent Death...

Is Restorative Retelling Really Possible?

(Or is this phrase an Oxymoron?)

We have been talking on Thursday's Therapy posts about Dr. Edward K. Rynearson's description of the healing nature of "Restorative Retelling of Violent Death." Is this phenomenon really true? Yes, the psychiatrist, Dr. Rynearson has years and years of experience in helping people develop their own "restorative" tales to tell about their loved ones' violent death. Yes, he says, in essence,

To have healing, you must combine

Naming + Personal Meaning + Restoration

in an intimate link for terror and violent dying to move from a Nameless entity that disintegrates and destroys us into a Named part of a much bigger story that encompasses our child's death while embracing our child's life that continues on with a vitality that is life-giving and life-producing in us.

Naming + Personal Meaning + Restoration is the formula that must be intimately linked for us to keep Terror and Violent Dying from remaining Nameless and therefore Disintegrating...


Get real.

I ask myself,

"How can a 'Re-telling' of my baby's Violent Death make a hill-of-beans of Difference whatsoever to the ultimate outcome of her Decimation and Death, and subsequently therefore of my Decimation as well?"

How would retelling such a horrific story make any kind of difference for me?

Sounds like magical thinking to me...

"Kiss the boo boo, and make it go away."

But this 'boo-boo' is way too big, and too violent, and too deadly to "go away."

So is Dr. Rynearson's theory merely "magical thinking"?



Maybe not...


And yet, look at our Lord's words. His words are never empty.

Jesus Himself is referred to as THE Word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men, The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

~John 1:1-2

His word may be baffling. His word may be mind-boggling. His word often seems unrealistic and undoable. Regardless, somehow His words are TRUTH for they represent HIM, who is TRUTH, who is LIFE.

So in John 14, verse one, what did Jesus mean when He said, "Let not your hearts be troubled," when HE, the SON OF GOD was telling His followers that He was about to be killed on a cross?

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am."

~John 14:1-3

"Let not your hearts be troubled"?

How is THAT doable? And yet, He spells it out for His followers.

  • Keep Your Eye On The Bigger Picture.
  • Keep Your Eye On My Purposes.
  • Keep Your Eye On What I Am Doing For You.
  • Keep Your Eye On What My Death Accomplishes For You...
  • Keep Your Eye On What My Death Does For All Eternity.
  • Keep Your Eye On My Promise To You.
  • Remember, I Go...To Prepare A Place For You, So That You May Be Where I Am.

In this way, even Jesus Himself is urging us to have transcendent thinking, to step out of the current moment, as horrific as it is, to enter a bigger picture that God Himself has created that literally ends in "happily ever-after," yet it is NOT a fairy-tale, and it is NOT magical thinking. This story is What The Living God Says He Is Doing In Our Lives that

  • Earthly Eyes Cannot "See," but that
  • We Must "See"
    • With The Heart,
    • With The Soul,
    • With The Spirit,
      • NOT With The Eyes,
      • NOT WithThe Human Senses,
      • NOT With The Finite Brain.

Perhaps this is why "discipleship" is a life-long process, teaching and training us continually

  • to think with the eyes of Faith,
  • to come to Him with the heart of Trust,
  • to submit to HIS ways with our wills bent toward Obedience, even if the obedience is "unto death."

And that is where the death of my child comes in, for her physical death sure seems like my "death," and as God Himself through His word communicates,

Jesus, before He was about to killed on a cross by his enemies, spoke the following words to His disciples who He knew could get so steeped in their grief and loss that they would lose sight of the much bigger picture:

So, evidently our Lord is saying,

There IS a way that you, with My help, can step outside of your horrific loss and step into My story for your child and for you.

And so, I will attempt my first draft at my own version of "Violent Death Retelling."

Please stay with me. Remember this story is not magical thinking, but it is viewing my baby through the eyes of faith with God's help...


My Restorative Retelling of Merry Katherine's Violent Death

  • My baby's precious origins in her Father's mind came before she was even born.
  • Her birth was miraculous given the violent occurrences in her parents' lives at the time.*
  • Her beautiful life touched so many lives, so many hearts, with her accepting, non-judgmental attitude.
  • Her horrific violent death in this world happened, killing her and decimating us.
  • Her marvelous afterlife is ongoing in God's sin-absent, Love-filled world of eternity where
  • We will see her again at our death or at God's rapture.

All these parts of her life signal that her death is only one part of God's bigger story for her and for His Kingdom.
Just as our Lord's death on the cross was only one part, horrific though it was, of God's overarching story for His life, I have to remember Merry Katherine's death is only one piece of the much greater story.
God's Eternal story brings complete glory to Himself and complete loving fulfillment to each child of His.

How can we lock in on any one part (like our tremendous grief and loss) when the Whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. And

  • Death IS ONLY one part. NOT the end.
  • Ultimately, it is NOT a "tragic" ending for my baby because, according to my Lord who does not lie, she IS alive, ALIVE and WELL with her Heavenly Abba-Daddy.
  • She is better than "well." She is made new, her spirit completed, unshackled from each and every sin that once held her down.
  • She is held in Love's arms every night.
  • She is connected with her mommy's spirit.
  • And she is still a part of the story as she smiles at me and urges me on to tell her story in a way that will continue to touch and heal even as she so sweetly touched and healed lives while she was here.
  • According to Scripture, she is a part of that great "cloud of witnesses" urging us on to complete the promises they did not receive here on this earth, but their promises will be fulfilled in partnership with us; we get to be a part of their being made perfect!

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entanges, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

~Hebrews 11:39-40,12:1

  • We will be rejoined in Heaven.
  • Should I be taken up in the rapture before death, who will be there in the air beside her Savior to meet me? My precious one, my baby, smiling even as she smiles at me now in spirit.
  • Yet should I die, who will be waiting for me "beyond the Jordan River, drawing pictures in the sand," but my precious angel baby, "running through the shallow waters, reaching for my hand"?


The holocaust survivors got it.

Viktor Frankl got it.

We can survive the horrors of this life only as we hold to to our true meaning, as we remember we are a part of God's much bigger Story.

Not a make-believe story, but a story more real than the air that we breathe, more real than the sun-moon-and-stars that shine, for even these heavenly lights will burn out one day when they are no longer needed as the Glory of our God will be all the Light we need. And there will never be night again. Neither will there be any more Night of the Soul, for

  • Our Sins will be washed clean and removed from us,
  • Death will be destroyed,
  • The Enemy will be cast into eternal hellfire, and
  • All our tears will be wiped away by the same Beloved who comforts us even now in our grief.
  • There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things is passed away.

~Revelation 21:3-4

And we will be rejoined with our loved ones, never to be separated again. Yes, we are a part of a much larger story. And despite our grief now, we are taught to look beyond the pain, the horrors, the nightmares of losing our children.

Love conquers all. Love saves. Love delivers. Love resurrects. And Love wins.

When all is said and done, Love wins.

Love restores.

And that becomes our restoration story that encompasses our child's violent death, but also embraces her life, a precious life lived with us, a life that is ongoing now, a life that will never end, and with whom our lives some day will be joined together again, never to be separated from one another ever again!

May God be praised. Only He is the One who makes our Restoration Story possible, Only He could accomplish a story for us that is redemptive, restorative, and real, but also a story that is at the same time, literally larger than life!

*More on this at a later date!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday's Therapy - Violent Death: Restorative Retelling

Thursday's Therapy

Violent Death: Restorative Retelling

Part Six

"Coping" with Violent Death

It is critically important in surviving the violent death of a loved one that you become able to cope with the horror and trauma of death while walking through and staying connected with the vitality of one's own life.

After surviving Merry Katherine's death for three years and almost ten months now, I will tell you this "coping" amidst the "vitality of one's own life" is not an easy feat to accomplish. Being so strongly connected to my children and having one ripped out of the very center of the fabric of my life feels like having my very heart ripped out.

As an example of my ongoing debilitation by the severe loss...

I have been practicing as a mental-health counselor (psychotherapist) for over thirty-years in private-practice, working with people who are troubled mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually and who feel very "stuck" in that pain. My job is to help them get "unstuck" and move forward with meaning and wholeness... This work can be extremely challenging and intensive as I often work with very traumatized and/or abused individuals.

With a loss of such magnitude as the death of my child's, I was almost completely stymied in doing very much at all of my life's work.

How could I help someone troubled and stuck when I was even more troubled and stuck?

My "full-time job" needed to be my own grief work; I could do a little of my counseling "on the side" at stable points in the midst of my grief-work. (And I never knew when those stable times would be, so the few clients I had coming in had to check with me on their given appointment day to see if that day would still work for me amidst my grief.) So it has been an arduous process so far to walk through this grief in a way that will be comforting and will allow the time for the tedious processing through each and every component of grief that arises (and often arises again and again).

If we cannot learn to speak and/or write out our grief over our child's violent death (and to me, all deaths of a child are violent), we will get stuck in the overwhelming grief process. And what a potentially overwhelming job is before us:

It has been our job to nurture, protect, and facilitate our child's continued growth toward adulthood; when that job is abruptly brought to a standstill in their death, we too are brought to a standstill. All that we stand for has been attacked. All the love in our hearts for our child has been brutally assaulted. One of our precious children to whom our lives are most dedicated has been accosted and demolished. Now, we are to try to live?

I tell my clients,

"There is no cure for grief, but there can be comfort found within the grieving process.
So the real key to working through the lifelong grief process is to keep the grief flowing."


Now Tommy and I spend much time walking through our grief, but when the grief compounded for him after two years (the numbness does begin wearing off...), it was overwhelming for him. He began getting stuck in his grief process...

Tommy shared tonight that in November of 2008, about two years after Merry Katherine's death, he found himself just wanting to die he was so depressed. After getting a laptop computer the following Christmas (of 2008), he began journaling around February of 2009. After journaling for awhile, he found his deep depression lifting so that he could function better (and have some sense of hope)...He has continued to feel much relief after such a frightening depression though grief continues to be extremely painful. He said tonight,

"If we don't effectively communicate (and process through) our grief, the violent death of our child will pull us down. It has a grip on us that won't let go if we don't consciously walk it through and keep it talked and/or written out."


In "Trauma-Therapy-speak," scientists studying the brain are discovering

Severe grief like child-loss grief can actually do damage to the brain.

The traumatized hippocampus actually begins shrinking!

The trauma is so severe that when it comes into the brain through the senses, it gets stuck in the amygdala, as the amygdala, very aware of the severity of the trauma, shuts down the pathways for that trauma to go anywhere else in the brain but shut up in the area of the brain called the hippocampus to thus enable the traumatized person to take ACTION, to "run," to "get out of danger," to "escape" for safety.

But this particular trauma of child-loss cannot be escaped in that way. So, we have to learn how to reach the trauma-material hidden within our hippocampus to process the trauma out effectively, coaxing the amygdala to let a little out at a time for us to "walk-through," and yet still function as a vital, alive person that is not completely overwhelmed by the trauma.

As we have discussed in former Thursday Therapy posts, it is critical to move that trauma material on through the brain, carving out new neural passageways similar to when we were a baby.

The trauma must move from the amygdala and the hippocampus into the prefrontal lobe of the brain so that the grief and trauma stored as horrifying, traumatizing sensations can be processed into a coherent, meaningful story which doesn't

  • deny our child's death ("avoidance"), nor
  • fixate on our child's death ("possession"), but
  • encompasses our child's death within the narrative of the rest of our life's story which includes the vitality of our life and the vitality of our child's life ("restorative retelling").



When God created the Heavens and earth, He called forth, "named" things into being. When He separated light from dark, He "named" them. He called the light "day," and the dark "night." When He created the first man, He "named" him Adam. Then He commissioned Adam to "name" the different components of his universe including his own mate and all of the animals and other living "beings" in the world!

God even continues to call us to "Name" our reality. The way He designed our brain, it seems He wants us to continue "naming" His world, including the dynamics one cannot see, like coping with our child's death, incorporating the understanding we have with the meaning that each aspect of our traumatic grief has for us as it is experienced and processed in our life.

The reason good therapy works is that it helps us to put names on the realities and dynamics in our life so that we can become healthier in dealing with those realities. Therapy helps us to reframe our life into a coherent narrative that reflects our life's meaning, and challenges us to grapple with, and find meaning in those hurdles that come our way.

So too we in our grief, must learn to process the grief on a regular basis, giving name to what we discover.

If we find ourselves getting "stuck," it is so important to seek out those whom we trust and respect to help us process through our thoughts and feelings until we get "unstuck" and thus can continue the healthy flow of our grief.


The way that Dr. Edward K. Rynearson explains this Healing Process is so profound, I told Tommy that for a counselor in the work of helping people cope in life,

"Rynearson's following words are tantamount in importance for the psychotherapist in dealing with, and helping others to deal with, traumatic child-loss as would be the importance to the scientist of the discovery of the cure for cancer:"

Dr. Rynearson:

"Violent dying is overwhelming because of its immediacy and physicality. The imaginary reenactment {playing over and over the violence our child experienced} is consuming because the family member has no distance or referent to protect them from the nameless terror."

'When terror and violent dying are nameless, they are disintegrating. There is an intimate link between naming, subjective meaning, and restoration.'

~(Lakoff & Johnson, 1980)

"Through naming the terror and retelling the violent dying, a symbol (word) and narrative (coherence) is created that contains the experience independent of its immediacy and physicality.

Naming and retelling gives a mediated relation to the experience. In being named and retold, the experience is rendered both present and absent. It is through language that the dying experience becomes suspended and objectified in a matrix of time and space.

The experience can be transformed with subjective meaning, through a symbolic and imaginary revision and restoration.

The clinician encourages naming and retelling of the violent death by listening and helping the family member tolerate and contain his or her terror. However, repeatedly naming and retelling the violent death is a form of possession.

A restorative retelling includes naming and retelling vital and life-affirming experiences that encompass and counterbalance the dying."


Rynearson describes some holocaust victims who held onto their grief in an unhealthy way so that it was not within a healing process, but was debilitating to the point of not being able to reclaim any of the vitality of life again:

These holocaust victims left oral recordings of their harrowing, victimizing experiences, but they seemed to relate their violent experiences in the manner that Rynearson refers to as "repeatedly naming and retelling the (violence)" in a way that is debilitating -- he calls this dynamic "possession," (being so possessed by the horror that any vital living is almost impossible):

{These particular holocaust victims told their story within a theme of} "deprival rather than survival, devoid of life-affirming value... (T)hose this identified with their memory of such massive atrocity cannot trust or commit to living again. They have been so dehumanized by the atrocity that they cannot be restored. No matter how they try, they cannot fully reconnect with the rapture of being alive."

He contrasted these victims (described above) who never left the debilitating phases of grief with the other healthier victims who were able to find meaning even amidst their debilitating sorrow, and thus were able to form a restorative narrative that helped them to heal even amidst their devastating situation:

"Subjective meaning gives a structure and direction to ongoing living. The structure and direction pivot on two unique human capacities--

  • a conscious ordering of experience through the coherence of language, and
  • a conscious choice in directing action.

Consciousness creates a transcendent meaning through symbolic language and elective acts.

These life-affirming words and enactments are the foundation of a meaningful restorative narrative. Meaning does not create an ending to the narrative of violent death, but begins a continuing life narrative that includes it."


Again, thank you so much to Dr. Edward K. Rynearson for his very knowledgeable help in teaching us how to better process through our violent-death grief.

Appreciation to Dr. Edward K. Rynearson, M.D., psychiatrist, author of Retelling Violent Death